The Los Angeles Times ran a piece over the weekend revealing efforts by the California National Guard to claw back reenlistment bonuses and student loan payments from 9,700 soldiers it has determined were ineligible for these incentives. According to California Guard official Col. Michael S. Piazzoni, “The system paid everybody up front, and then we spent the next five years figuring out if they were eligible.”
“‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first—verdict afterwards.'”
“‘Stuff and nonsense,’ said
We are not talking about chump change here, either. Ten years ago, the Pentagon was offering guard members signing bonuses of $15,000 for six-year reenlistments. With penalties and interest now tacked on, these soldiers are suddenly and unexpectedly finding themselves close to $20k in debt. Student loans can run up the total at least as high as $46,000. Thousands of men and women are remortgaging their homes or taking huge hits via wage garnishment to pay it back. Some, though, are refusing.
Robert Richmond, an Army sergeant first class then living in Huntington Beach, said he reenlisted after being told he qualified for a $15,000 bonus as a special forces soldier.
The money gave him “breathing room,” said Richmond, who had gone through a divorce after a deployment to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003.
In 2007, his special forces company was sent to the Iraqi town of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad in an area known as the “Triangle of Death” because of the intense fighting.
Richmond conducted hundreds of missions against insurgents over the next year. In one, a roadside bomb exploded by his vehicle, knocking him out and leaving him with permanent back and brain injuries.
He was stunned to receive a letter from California Guard headquarters in 2014 telling him to repay the $15,000 and warning he faced “debt collection action” if he failed to comply.
Richmond should not have received the money, they argued, because he already had served 20 years in the Army in 2006, making him ineligible.
Richmond, 48, has refused to repay the bonus. He says he only had served 15 years when he reenlisted, due to several breaks in his Army service.
He has filed appeal after appeal, even after receiving a collection letter from the Treasury Department in March warning that his “unpaid delinquent debt” had risen to $19,694.62 including interest and penalties.
After quitting the California Guard so the money wouldn’t be taken from his paycheck, he moved to Nebraska to work as a railroad conductor, but was laid off.
He then moved to Texas to work for a construction company, leaving his wife and children in Nebraska. With $15,000 debt on his credit report, he has been unable to qualify for a home loan.
“I signed a contract that I literally risked my life to fulfill,” Richmond said bitterly. “We want somebody in the government, anybody, to say this is wrong and we’ll stop going after this money.”
Of course all of this is particularly galling in light of this fact:
The United States spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined. (2015 data.)
This perversity is compounded by the Pentagon simply losing track of $8.5 trillion, with virtually no one in government or media showing the slightest interest in getting an accounting for any of it. Why, if I were a
rational cynical person, I might even believe that the deep state—i.e., America’s Owners and the permanent power factions in D.C.—had some kind of a vested interest in a font of taxpayer money endlessly gushing forth without any accountability whatsoever! It’s not like EIGHT POINT FIVE TRILLION DOLLARS would go a long way toward resolving conflicts and bettering human conditions here and around the globe without bloodshed or anything.
Regardless of what we may think of the U.S.’s endless wars and occupations, these men and women have made unfathomable sacrifices in an effort to do right by us, and they deserve all of the respect, care and support we can give them.
Have a nice day.